Season Opener


When I was a young pilot back in Minnesota, it was clear that there was an off-season for flying. Despite having access to a Cub on skis, we didn’t fly it all that often – it was bitterly cold and a C-65 just didn’t generate enough heat to warm your feet, much less the cockpit. So we flew on skis mostly just to say we’d done it, then retreated to other activities more conducive to the climate – like ice fishing.

In the more than three decades I lived and flew open the Gulf coast, I took it for granted that flying was a year-round activity. Sure, there were more gloomy days with low ceilings in the winter, but they didn’t last for even a week, and you could generally file IFR to get out if you needed to. But the thought of just pickling an airplane and letting it sit in a snowed-in hangar for three or four months just seemed alien. So the Sun ‘n Fun Fly-in held in Lakeland, Floria each April was just another fly-in for those down south – a place to go other than the normal short weekend trip.

Sun n Fun LogoBut for those up north looking for that first sign of spring, Sun ‘n Fun was much more – an invitation to once again spread their wings and wake both their airplanes and pilot skills from a few month’s slumber. To those builders and flyers of homebuilts down south, it was the first big show of the year where they could meet vendors and buy parts and kits. For those fleeing the never-ending winter up north, it was a chance to see the sun, take off the parkas, and reinvigorate their love of aviation. What might have been dormant through the short days could now re-emerge and once again flower in the warmth of spring.

And so it goes today, as pilots begin pointing their planes to the south and east, heading for the center of the Florida peninsula for a week of enjoyment airplanes and the people who fly them. It’s a chance to meet old friends, make new ones, and see what’s been cooking in workshops all winter long.

Kitplanes will be in Lakeland this week with a f ew of your favorite authors wandering around to bring you the news and feel of what’s going on in Lakeland, should you not be able to make it yourself. For those of us coming from parts of the world where winter still reigns, its hard to cal it tough duty – but we’ll do our best to make you feel like you’re here at the show.

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Paul Dye
Paul Dye, KITPLANES® Editor at Large, retired as a Lead Flight Director for NASA’s Human Space Flight program, with 40 years of aerospace experience on everything from Cubs to the Space Shuttle. An avid homebuilder, he began flying and working on airplanes as a teen and has experience with a wide range of construction techniques and materials. He flies an RV-8 and SubSonex jet that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra and an electric Xenos motorglider they completed. Currently, they are building an F1 Rocket. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 6000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, FAA DAR, EAA Tech Counselor and Flight Advisor; he was formerly a member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.


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